Jesus comes under fire from the Pharisees for consorting with tax collectors and sinners and actually sharing meals with them! The dinner table, a place of acceptance and celebration, clearly brings to light Jesus’ violation of society’s standards, and the Pharisees feel understandably indignant.
Under the cloud of this criticism, Jesus challenges them with an example from their own culture. He asks them to imagine losing a sheep from their own flock. Wouldn’t they search for the one they lost and celebrate when they found it? This image speaks to us of a God who never stops reaching out to us, who diligently looks for us until we allow ourselves to be found.
On the other side of this relationship, it’s fair to say that we are born with an impulse to seek and yearn for meaning. As expressed by Saint Augustine, we remain restless until we find our rest in God. We are created to grope for the Light, to hunger for the One in whom “‘we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17:28).
The searching itself is key to spiritual growth. It upsets our inner life and casts light on what needs to change. One signpost of a faithful life is that we never stop hungering and thirsting for God. Rather than settling for a life of moral bookkeeping, we remain teachable, unfinished, and ever open to God’s continuing refinement of our thoughts and actions.
Like the sinners and the tax collectors, we find ourselves welcomed and forgiven in Jesus’ presence. We reach out our hand to discover a divine “hand” stretched out toward us in beckoning love.
Think of times when you have felt pursued by God. Imagine that pursuit as one of gracious invitation rather than condemnation.
The apparent message of Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 is total despair, but verse 27 offers a soft note of grace. God’s redemptive purposes for the people will not ultimately be thwarted. Psalm 14 suggests that foolishness and perversity characterize all humanity, but God can gather from among sinful humankind a community of people who will nd their refuge in God. In First Timothy, the writer points to his own life as an example of God’s ability to reclaim and redeem persons. Luke 15 suggests how far God is willing to go to reclaim the lost. The par- ables of the lost sheep and the lost coin portray God as remark- ably and even recklessly active in pursuit of wayward persons.
• Read Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28. When have you made a mess of things and suffered the consequences? What invitation surfaced from that situation?
• Read Psalm 14. How do you feel when you are out of touch with God’s call? What practices or disciplines do you employ to recognize God’s faithfulness?
• Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17. What can you do today that will show mercy and compassion to another?
• Read Luke 15:1-10. When have you felt God pursuing you? How did this feel like a gracious invitation rather than con- demnation?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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